Members and friends are invited to study these policies and provide advice on improvements and additions.
Definition: Farm forestry and agroforestry are terms that cover the establishment and management of trees on farms by farmers for, amongst other things, commercial production.
The development of large-scale timber plantations on what was previously farmland is having a social, economic and environmental impact in some rural landscapes in the higher rainfall areas. In south-eastern Australian most plantings are of Eucalyptus globulus (Blue Gum) established by Managed Investment Schemes which offer "tax-effective" retail investment opportunities. Because most of these plantations are established on land purchased by the companies there is not involvement of farmers and therefore it cannot be called farm forestry.
The establishment and management of both commercial and non-commercial trees on farms offers farmers the opportunity to enhance agricultural production, control land degradation, enhance biodiversity and to diversify their income sources.
There are many ways in which farmers can make income or save money by growing trees: The can grow tree products such as timber, fuel, seed, flowers or oils for sale or on-farm use. They could lease land to someone else to grow trees or even enter into a joint venture arrangement where the costs and returns are shared. They could explore opportunities for growing trees and then selling environmental values such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity values or improved water quality. Or, they could use their trees to enhance agricultural production, support a tourism business or develop expertise or credibility that helps them obtain off-farm work.
Although conventional plantation forestry generally involves large scale, monoculture plantings that will be clear felled at harvest, farm forestry, because of the range of values farmers generally seek from their trees, more often involve diverse plantings of various ages and species that are integrated into the farming landscape. Because many are dependent on maintaining their agricultural production farmers rarely plant trees across their whole farm preferring to concentrate plantings on the land of lower agricultural value or in patterns that improved stock shelter or crop yields.
The spread of large scale plantation forestry has raised concerns about catchment water supply, habitat destruction, loss of population and community services, landscape aesthetics and more. The rise in farmer participation in forestry rarely generates the same reaction despite the fact that the farmers are often growing the same tree species, using the same herbicides and managing trees for the same timber markets.
The difference is more than just scale. By being involved, the landholders themselves are able to influence the species mix, location, purpose and management of the forests so that they reflect the diversity of interests and aspirations of those within the local community. The result is a diversity of activity that reflects the diversity inherent within the community and contrasts with the uniformity of the forests established by outsiders.
In any plantation establishment, remnant shrub and tree vegetation is protected from plantings, native grasses could be impacted and plantings surrounding isolated, mature trees (eg remnant red gums) will probably shorten the tree's life by competing for a limited water resource
The current taxation environment is encouraging investment companies to purchase farms for large scale plantation development whilst discouraging the farmers to invest their own money - or form partnerships with off-farm investors - to establish farm forests. Rather than simply focusing on the volume of timber produced or the new employment opportunities in the forestry sector it is important to look at how commercial tree growing can enhance, rather than replace, existing land uses and the communities and the environment that depends on them.
EFN will work with the community and all levels of government to promote the following principles:
- Farm forestry be encouraged as part of a diversified farm enterprise that enhances farm businesses with minimal negative impacts on regional water and biodiversity resources.
- In areas where water resources will be significantly impacted a licence to purchase a transferable water entitlement be required.
- Farm forestry to be consistent with catchment objectives such as salinity mitigation and river health .
- From a biodiversity perspective farm forestry using native species, indigenous where possible, is preferred to non native species. A range of native species is often preferred to one species, however species selection should be determined on a case by case basis depending on measurable environmental outcomes.
- Farm forestry to be part of the whole farm plan and layout to maximize windbreak and biodiversity corridor effects.
- Clearwood production of high value sawlogs is preferred to other forms of production as it maximizes value.
- Encourage Federal Government to legislate to ban imports of timber harvested illegally and/or unsustainably and rectify tax incentive inequities.